So what are hops?
Humulus Lupulus – a hop is a plant which produces a flower from which ‘hop cones’ are formed… the hop cones are what brewers use and refer to as hops, they each have different characteristics (such as acidity or tannin content) which brewers utilise to create their various brews, for instance in getting the right aroma or “bitterness”.
The number of different ways brewers ‘hop’ their beers is almost infinite, but they can classified and as such you can add to your and your staff’s understanding of the ales you serve.
Brewers stir in bittering, flavoring and aroma hops during the boil. They classify 60 minute hops as bittering, 20-30 minute hops as flavoring, and under 15 minutes as aroma or finishing hops. For the most part a brewer looks at the ‘alpha acid units’ for bittering hops, and oils and resins for aroma and flavor.
Multiple Addition Or Continuous Hopping
IPAs and some other beers follow this approach of hopping. Brewers add hops throughout the boil every 5 or 10 minutes (or some determined interval, but continuously throughout the boil). This gives an extremely ‘hoppy’ beer.
Another common method hop heads have brewers have added to their repetoire is adding a bunch of hops at or near the end of the boil where a brewer is trying to get a burst of hop aroma and flavour.
Brewers filter the ‘wort’ before transferring it to a fermenter using a strainer to hold back some of the hot break and hops, however, since hops dissolve into very small particles, some brewers started using whole hops to help strain the boiled hops and realised that this also added additional hop character and the practice became known as hop back. This method primarily gives beers aroma and flavour.
First Wort Hopping
The moment sugar is added to water it becomes ‘wort’… when hops are added at this time, the method is called first wort hopping. This method is common with grain brewers using first wort hopping during the mash to give beer a more rounded bitterness and ‘hop nose’.
A common method of adding aroma is done during secondary fermentation, is ‘dry hopping’, although the term is actually used to refer to hopping anytime after the wort has been cooled. It can be done by adding hops to a cask as well. Whole hops are usually preferred for this and are usually bagged to separate them from the beer.
Similar to dry hopping, ‘Krausen hopping’ is adding highly hopped fermenting beer to a lager beer that has finished fermenting to enhance the hoppiness. The difference here is that the hops from krausen beer have been boiled and therefore will add bitterness and not just aroma.
Hop Aroma Tea
To add more flavour to beer, wort is boiled and added hops to extract aroma from the hops, this augmented wort becomes a ‘hop tea’ and it is then added to conditioning beer. Since the hops are not boiled, there is no added bitterness just enhanced flavour and aroma.
Hopping At Dispense
A little known method of hopping where a hop filter is used to push beer through hops when serving; the tool used is called a ‘randall’ and it makes beer pick up aroma and a bit of flavour right as it’s being served. This method of dispense necessarily makes for a very foamy ale.
An A-Z of Hops … well some of them …
Amarillo is an American ‘aroma-type cultivar’ of recent origin
Bramling Cross is grown in Kent and Sussex, it has a very distinctive aroma which is best suited to the darker stronger types of beers
Cascade is an American ‘aroma-type cultivar’ it was obtained by crossing an English Fuggle with a male plant, which originated from the Russian variety Serebrianka with a Fuggle male plant. A very popular U.S. variety, with a moderate bitterness level and fragrant, flowery aroma and is often used in ales that have a citrus-floral hop character
Centennial is an aroma-type cultivar, bred in 1974 and released in 1990 from various other strains of hop (Brewers Gold, Fuggle, East Kent Golding, and Bavarian) Some brewers use it for aroma as well as bittering and can have floral notes depending on the boil time
Challenger gives a fine bitterness and aroma, resulting in many brewers using these hops alone, in the production of their beers
Chinook is a bittering variety with a herbal / smoky character when used as an aromatic during the last few minutes of the boil when dry hoping. Used hopping higher gravity American-style Pale Ales
Columbus has a pungent aroma used for bitter ales and IPAs
Fuggle is an aroma-type cultivar selected in England as a chance seedling in 1861. It reached its peak in the U.K. in 1949 when 78% of the English crops were grown as Fuggle. It is also marketed as Styrian (Savinja) Golding in the Slovenian Republic. Often used by brewers in the UK
Golding is a group of aroma-type cultivars originating in Kent, over time this group of hop varieties have been named after villages in East Kent, (Petham, Rothersham, Canterbury, Eastwell) or hop farmers, who grew them (Amos’s Early Bird, Cobbs). English Goldings grown in East Kent, are a premium hop, called East Kent Golding and should not be confused with other UK Goldings, which are grown in other counties such as Worcestershire, Hampshire and Herefordshire. Some consider Golding to be the premier British hop as it has a unique spicy aroma and refined flavor
Hallertau (Mittelfrueh) is an aroma-type cultivar which originated in Germany as a land – race hop with a mild spicy flavor and aroma
Northdown are used to good effect in the production of the darker styles of beers. They are an ideal companion to the aroma hops such as Fuggles or Progress. Northdown hops are particulary suited to Irish style stouts
Northern Brewer is a bittering-type cultivar, first bred in 1934 and is much used in the breeding process of many newer varieties, it is a strong fragrant hop with a rich rough-hewn flavour and aroma, ideal for steam-style beers and ales. Northern Brewer has a unique mint-like evergreen flavour
Perle is an aroma-type cultivar, bred in 1978 in Germany from Northern Brewer, with a very clean, almost minty bitterness and pleasant aroma
Progress this hop has fine aromas and is used together with Goldings in the production of bitters and pale ales
Saaz is the traditional hop for true pilsner beer. Saaz is famous for its spicy, clean bitterness
Target are the most widely grown variety in Britain and are used in the production of good quality bitters and pale ales
Tettnang is an aroma-type cultivar which originated in the Tettnang hop growing area of Germany as a land-race hop and ideal for finest lagers and wheat beers
Zeus is an American aromatic hop